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Uber makes its case for access to Puerto Rico tourism zones

By on May 18, 2017

SAN JUAN – Days before Gov. Ricardo Rosselló‘s administration submits a bill that gives the Public Service Commission (PSC) the power to oversee and regulate public transportation in Puerto Rico, Uber revealed that in four years it has contributed $450 million in taxable revenue and could generate 18,000 opportunities for self-employment.

However, Uber General Manager Juan Andión declined to clarify at a news conference if the amount, $112.5 million a year, comes from the money generated by drivers or if they are profits reported by the ride-hailing company. The executive also didn’t specify if the mobile transportation service pays taxes on the island.

In this Wednesday, March 15, 2017 file photo, a sign marks a pick-up point for the Uber car service at LaGuardia Airport in New York. (Seth Wenig, File/AP)

As for Senate Bill 525, which would regulate the company’s operation in Puerto Rico, Andión briefly said he favors any measure that sets differences among the types of public transportation and that he supports the company’s innovation.

In addition, the company’s manager detailed several ways in which Uber “contributes to Puerto Rican society,” such as reduced unemployment, decreased traffic accidents and employment opportunities for women. Specifically, a study by the company shows it has 4,000 driving partners and that 110,000 people have used its services on the island.

In addition, Andión mentioned that 70% of Uber drivers improved their income, and that 40% count the company as their main source of income. Women make up 20% of the drivers, a relatively high number compared with the average for other countries in the region.

Andión also said the company’s survey revealed Puerto Ricans support Uber’s access to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM). The study confirmed that 80% of users don’t use a taxi to leave the airport; however, 98% of them would like Uber to operate there. “We expanded the type of transportation,” he said,  adding that Uber doesn’t intend to “replace taxis.”

During the first 48 hours that the company had access to the area as a result of the executive order issued by the governor Friday, associates made 6,000 trips to and from Muñoz Marín Airport, and more than 11,000 trips around tourism areas. “These numbers reaffirm the need that Uber can fulfill in these areas,” he added.

In order to differentiate the company’s work from what other transportation providers offer, the manager pointed out the platform’s safety, technology, its associates, and customer feedback as unique company measures.

In addition, as part of the company’s commitment to provide aid to the government, Andión presented a new tool called Uber Movement, which provides a database that will be available to authorities so they can plan construction and improve common areas, among others.

Amid the dispute over Uber’s arrival in Puerto Rico 10 months ago, Andión reiterated the company’s commitment to the island and the need for a regulatory model that would allow it to “continue to contribute to Puerto Rican society.”

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